FAQs About Graduate-Level Writing Programs

If you have a question about writing programs that isn't addressed below, send it to faq [at] writehabit [dot] org.

What is an affiliated lit journal?

A literay journal that is run either in part or completely by graduate students. Student positions range from slush-pile readers to the editor.

What is a low-residency MFA program?

In low-residency programs, students and teachers only attend classes on campus about twice a year for week-long residencies. During the rest of the year, students work from home in close contact with writer-mentors. This is a great option for people who don't want to pack up their lives to pursue an MFA degree.

Why do so few programs offer a nonfiction track?

Some programs accept nonfiction students in the fiction track. If you're interested in a program that doesn't list nonfiction as a genre, contact the coordinator to find out more.

What is a teaching assistantship?

Teaching assistantships vary. Some programs require TAs to teach one to two classes a semester. Other TAs assist professors. To find out more, it's best to call a progam's coordinator.

What is a fellowship?

Fellowships vary. Some programs offer one or two fellowships on a competitive basis that come with a tuition waver and stipend but don't require students to do anything in return besides their studies. Some offer special teaching fellowships, such as teaching undergraduate creative writing classes instead of composition classes. To learn more about a program's fellowships, call and ask.

What is a stipend?

A stipend is the salary a student receives for teaching, research, or editorial services. Some stipends offer the additional benefit of health insurance, but not all.

What is a tuition waver?

A tuition waver is an almost-free ride. Students who receive tution wavers do not have to pay tuition, but they typically have to pay graduate-school fees, such as recreation fees (to use the gym).

What do writers do with MFA degrees?

Some writers go on to teach. Others become editors. Many go back to what they did prior to graduate school. An MFA degree in creative writing doesn't qualify a person to do much more than teach at the college level. Experience working on a literary journal coupled with the degree will help open some doors in the publishing industry.

What is the likelihood of getting a teaching position in an undergraduate-level or a graduate-level creative writing program if you have an MFA degree?

Although there are more academic jobs than ever before due to the proliferation of MFA programs, there are also more writers with MFA degrees competing for these positions. One of the recipes to success includes an MFA degree, academic teaching experience, and a published book. Writers with the degree, a strong publication history in literary journals, and teaching experience sometimes find positions at small liberal arts colleges. However, there are many writers with all the right credentials who would like to be teaching but haven't had any luck.

Does a writer need an MFA degree to get ahead these days?

You don't need an MFA degree to be a successful writer. You need to write. A lot. That's really the only sure-fire way to succeed. MFA programs give writers time, community, mentors, and sometimes connections to editors and agents. To find out more about the balance of a program's offerings, talk to students to get the true story. Program coordinators are happy to put you in touch.

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